Originally posted on Helmet2Helmet  |  Last updated 9/14/12

In the days leading up to the 2011 season, Chris Johnson landed a four-year, $53.5 million contract extension, with $30 million of it guaranteed. After the ink dried, expectations for the three-time Pro Bowl running back skyrocketed. He responded with, by his lofty standards, a very mediocre season, rushing for 1,047 yards, four touchdowns, and a few impromptu trips to the bench.

The main excuse for the down year was due to Johnson being “out of shape” after the lockout and self-imposed holdout sapped his conditioning. He never lost confidence, though, saying in June that he’s still tops at his position.

Heading into the 2012 campaign, expectations began to slowly rise. In Week One, with no excuses left and a chance to ditch his detractors, Johnson was non-existent, totaling just four — count ‘em four — yards on eleven carries.

It was just about the worst possible start for the man who just three years ago set an NFL record with 2,509 yards from scrimmage.

Facing more criticism than ever, as some argue he’ll never return to form, Johnson, whose confidence remains “very high,” says his lucrative contract puts him under the microscope, opening the floodgates for scrutiny.

“When things don’t go right I know everything is going to get pointed at me because I am the main focal point, I got a big contract,” said Johnson, via the Tennessean.

“At the end of the day I just have to continue to work just like my other offensive players. I think it is going to get better. But it is not just a one-man effort. It is not just me changing how I run or running harder, it is the whole group. It is a group effort.”

Football is a team sport, that’s undeniable. However, SiriusXM NFL analyst Ross Tucker opines that Johnson doesn’t believe in the players around him — specifically, the O-line.

“I think he is lacking confidence in his offensive line, and I don’t think he’s trusting his eyes,” Tucker said. “I don’t think the Titans offensive line played great, but let’s put it this way: running backs have had yardage with offensive linemen playing worse.”

During the opener versus the Patriots’ improved but susceptible defense, Johnson could’ve broken some big runs but instead danced around, slow to the hit the hole. Although New England did a terrific job in their containment, never allowing him to get outside, the 27-year-old looked nothing like a $53 million superstar.

Facing the Chargers in Week Two, Johnson will have to bounce back, if nothing else but to take some pressure off shaky quarterback Jake Locker. Another plodding performance, coupled with a loss, and things could get ugly, making it only a matter of time before the Titans’ braintrust begin to regret the big money deal.

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